Eric Cressey

Apr 21 2022

A few years ago, when my official website was publishing the work of promising coaches, trainers and nutritionists, I received an email from a young Eric Cressey. Eric, a yesterday's graduate with a passion for weightlifting, had decided to try his hand at being a writer and wondered if I could publish an article he had recently written. It was an article on how to teach weightlifters how to budget for items such as fitness club memberships, exercise equipment, healthy foods, and dietary supplements. The article turned out to be pretty good, so I decided to post it. Funny enough, Eric's article got over 30,000 views. People loved it!

I could not have imagined that material like that would generate so much interest. But Eric did. It seems to me that Eric Cressey knows the solution to every problem. By nature, he is always busy looking for areas he can improve on and eventually gets his ideas implemented. Already the year he sent me his first article, he discovered one specific problem that people were having. Since then, he started looking for a solution and, of course, he never stopped.


It can't help but be impressive that Eric Cressey's star has shone brightly since that first article was published. Over the past few years, he has established himself as one of the best athletics specialists in the world, as the man people come to to get strong, increase muscle size and excel at fitness. It's not even that he has a master's degree in exercise science from the prestigious University of Connecticut, where he studied with the strongest researchers such as Dr. William Kramer, Dr. Carl Maresch and Dr. Jeff Volek, and it's not that he has written over 250 articles, published several books and DVDs on strength training and athletic training, or that he has personally helped hundreds of athletes and enthusiasts achieve their goals. He's just a man who always takes what he says and puts it into practice.


Eric Cressey is a walking pound-for-pound! In fact, how many 165-pound guys do you know who can bench press over 400 pounds, do a 600-pound barbell deadlift and squats over 500 pounds? Hell, I work with professionals and I don't know many people like that. Cressy wasn't born strong, and his parents didn't feed little Cressy a lot of spinach while making him unload wagons of coal as exercise. As a child, he was quite round-cheeked and obese. But, charged with the right plan and a healthy heart, he made himself from the ground up. And so can you!


Wait, I know what you're thinking! You're thinking that just because someone out there figured out how to make themselves strong doesn't mean they know how to make you strong. And you're certainly right. Although you should look away from Cressy Cressy's barrel chest and look at the results he's achieving with others -- results you can read about in this book as you progress through the Maximum Strength Program. The formula for the Maximum Strength Program has been studied in detail in a scientific laboratory and proven in the field, in the gym. Would you be disappointed in a guy who practiced this program back in school, then in the real world, and who to this day continues to successfully train other people in this program?


I have great respect for the professional opinion of Eric Cressey, and I believe with all my heart the energy of the Maximum Force program. I certainly understand that if you consistently apply the principles you will learn, you will become an attention getter both in and out of the gym.


During your workouts, your buddies will constantly wonder why the hell you're making progress with each new workout - especially if they've spent years doing it themselves without making much progress. And your friends outside the gym will wonder if your t-shirts shrunk in the wash or if you already need a new closet for your muscles. Either way, I'm sure you'll enjoy all these comments.


Nevertheless, one of the best things about this special book is that not only will you learn how to push a barbell, increasing your muscle strength and volume, but you will also get answers to a bunch of other important questions. Such as, for example, pushing the bar without pain or injury. So, right away, guys, pick up your soft foam rollers and start doing moving exercises. The injury prevention part of the program is expensive. It's the one that will help get rid of muscle aches and joint pain and make sure those unpleasant feelings never happen again. My clients and I, we can swear that this is the book that describes the best warm-up methods. (I swear by the warm-up methods described in this book!)


Another huge positive element of this book is the section on nutrition. Since I'm a healthy eating instructor, I might be a little biased, especially since many of the recipes Cressey and his co-author Mat Fitzgerald overheard from me. But in all seriousness, by following the nutritional recommendations, your progress on the weights will overtake that of your fellows by leaps and bounds. From the height of all that you will achieve, you will realize that you have gained great health and a beefy musculature that will show it off beautifully.


I could go on at length about how great Eric is and how much I love his book. But I think you already want to start reading it. So I guess I'll just finish. If you've been looking for a recipe on how to get strong, really strong, come into Cressy's kitchen. Illuminated on all sides with theory and results, Eric and Matt's Maximum Strength program, which is described in the pages of this book, will change the way you think about strength training and with it, change the way you look now and the results your body can achieve.


Yours sincerely,John Berardi, PhD, CSCS


Dr. John Berardi is one of North America's best-known authorities on fitness and healthy eating. He is known as a leading researcher in the field of exercise theory description and the science of healthy eating, as a widely read author, and as an instructor and trainer to thousands of elite athletes and amateurs. Dr. Berardi is currently president of the Precision Nutrition Society, a world leader in healthy nutrition programs for active men and women.


From Eric Cressey

When I was a boy running around the schoolyard, I dreamed of being the strongest man in the world, but certainly not the biggest man in the world. I liked to imagine all the coolest things I could do with my superpower, like throwing a baseball into the next town or pinning bullies with one hand. The idea of being very big and not conforming in a power sense made no sense to me at all. What good is it if you look like you can throw a baseball into the next town, but you can't actually do it?


It's been years, but even though I took up weightlifting, I still often wondered if I didn't want to get massive instead of getting strong. It's the same with most American men who choose weightlifting as their first fitness experience. Somewhere between the athletic field and the office divider, they lose their childlike wisdom and give up dreams of becoming the strongest men in the world for becoming the biggest men in the room.


The most effective methods of increasing strength are radically different from the simplistic bodybuilding methods that most guys follow to increase their body mass. Training for maximum strength is a lot more fun because progress is more steady and easy to measure. It's about adding weights to the bar instead of furtively looking at yourself in the mirror trying to determine if your t-shirt has finally gotten small in four weeks. Scientific studies have also shown that when you increase your strength, you get a lot more out of talking about your health and coping with various life situations than just increasing your muscle size. You really can accomplish a lot more with strong muscles than with big muscles, and also strong muscles help you look trim, prevent degenerative diseases like diabetes, and even slow down the aging process. Increasing your maximum strength is one of the most profitable investments you can make for yourself, whether your primary goal is to improve your performance in any sport or improve your health, gain confidence and sexual relationships or celebrate your 100th birthday one day.


Fortunately, when I studied exercise physiology as a graduate of the University of Connecticut, I discovered this superiority of muscle strength over muscle size. Within a few years, I became fascinated with the study and creation of the most effective methods to develop maximal strength. I now apply these methods to a wide range of my clients, from professional athletes to grandfathers who just want to feel better. I coach them at my fitness gym in Boston, Massachusetts, as well as online on the Internet.


These same methods were the basis for the 16-week Maximum Strength program, which I will tell you about in this book. In Maximum Strength, your primary goal will change. Instead of wanting to get bigger, there will be a desire to get stronger, and you will forget about the grueling workouts accepted in bodybuilding, and instead learn about modern athletic strengthening exercises. As a result, you will become stronger than ever. Your body will also become more functional, the usual nagging pains and weaknesses will disappear, and you will be able to excel in any sport in which you want to take part. This kind of training will be more enjoyable than before, and your self-confidence will reach new unknown heights, including the fact that your physical performance will become very close to the top ten, where you have always dreamed to go. And finally, you will get rid of the fat, and, yes, if you do continue to dream of gaining weight, that task will be much easier for you as well.


Why am I so confident that you will get excellent results? Because I see my clients' results every day. And my first client was myself. My whole life changed dramatically as soon as I took up powerlifting a few years ago. In just eight weeks, I went from being an unemployed avid gamer living with my parents to the lead singer of a music group whose single ended up in the top ten.


You don't believe me? Well, I'll tell you the truth, what really happened to me when I started powerlifting was not only that I found the right sport for me, but also that from the moment I started striving to improve my body, a lingering period of stagnation and lethargy ended for me. At the same time the opportunity to become a powerlifting trainer truly saved me, I was working with the incomprehensible goal of building up some muscle mass, just like 99% of the other guys at any fitness club. And my desire to get a better body was more about looks than functionality. As a result, my athletic training turned out to be a boring chore. I lacked concentration and a clear goal, and was simply wasting my time in the gym. For several weeks developing a program using traditional bodybuilding methods, I may have gained half a pound of muscle that was barely noticeable on the scales and certainly didn't inspire me to try any further.


Working out became a part of my life, which I certainly enjoyed, but it still gave me far less pleasure than, for example, playing great tennis or soccer, which I participated in back in high school, where I trained to win and saw my results improve by the day. At the University of Connecticut I joined a strength and health club, and every day I began to see the same pattern - young athletes who were working out hard for a purpose with undisguised pleasure, without thinking much about the meaning. I, on the other hand, had to look for something where I could apply my competitive instinct, as well as find an exercise where I could count my results. Some of my friends advised me to try powerlifting, and I'm so glad I took their advice!


Two things changed as soon as I started powerlifting: my training methods and my mindset. As you will very quickly realize by reading this book and following the Maximum Strength program, the methods used to achieve maximum strength are fundamentally different from those aimed at increasing muscle. Basically, the difference is that the program has more movement, heavier weights and fewer repetitions. I couldn't believe how quickly my strength increased when I replaced my bodybuilding routine with a powerlifting training program. In September 2003, I was able to do the 429-pound deadlift. Just nine months later, I pulled 510 pounds on my first attempt, beating the previous American Junior Powerlifting Association of Connecticut lightweight leader (165 pounds) by more than 60 pounds. And the stronger I got, the more folded my business became. I was developing my muscle balance, some of the former pain was gone, and it was getting easier and easier to develop muscle and lose fat every day.


Yes, that's right - losing fat! I was lucky, because at the time I started powerlifting, I already had a DEXA scan. (A DEXA scan shows the condition of the body by checking it from the inside out. It is considered to be the most accurate technology available to check the amount of fat in the body.) At the time, I weighed 171.6 pounds at about 5 to 8 inches tall. The scan showed that my body was 14.6 percent fat and my bone density was 1.266 g/cm2. Just a year later, I felt the need to have a second scan. After all, I already knew that my body had changed significantly, but even then I did not expect to see such results!


After a year of powerlifting, my weight had increased by 3.5 pounds to 175.1 pounds, but I had also lost 3.7% of my body fat, that figure was 10.5%. (And by the way, if that number seems high to you, note that determining body fat with a DEXA scan always yields 3-4% higher results than with any other method that usually underestimates the results.) Meanwhile, my body weight increased by 7.9%. This change equates to an 11.26-pound increase in body weight with a simultaneous 5.46-pound decrease in body fat. Bone density was just as impressive, with a 6.2% increase. I added about one-third of a pound of pure bone to my body.


But more important than these results for me was the change in mindset that has occurred since I started powerlifting. Powerlifting gave me concrete, meaningful, quantifiable goals. And I had already stopped squinting my eyes in the mirror, trying to discern if a month of monotonous training had brought any visible physical change. ("Was that vein on my arm visible before?") Now I began counting the number of weights on the barbell. Each time the weight increased, I felt rewarded for my hard work and was motivated to increase the weight even more in the future. My passion for working out was rekindled. Going to the gym became exciting again, all because I shifted my focus from appearance to function. This shift in consciousness helped my workouts find the mode, purpose, and direction that was so lacking before.


Yes, in fact, my whole life synergistically began to adjust and align around the new goals I had set for myself. For example, instead of just trying to eat right so I wouldn't get fat, I started to nourish and energize my body to get stronger, and this new goal helped me eat even healthier food than what I was eating before. And on top of that, women just started throwing themselves at me. Well, maybe I was just imagining it, but I was actually getting a lot more compliments on my physique than I had in years past!


So, you don't have to become a worthy powerlifting competitor like me to get all the benefits you can. Only some of my clients have become serious athletes, but essentially all of my clients train to increase their maximum capacity, improve their performance in various sports and games, as well as improve their appearance, overall health and fitness, and gain self-confidence. I wrote the book Maximum Strength to help the many guys who are stuck in the same rut I was in years ago--the rut of longing and stagnation that comes from the endless pursuit of an uncertain goal of getting bigger through ineffective, old-fashioned bodybuilding exercises. The solution I've found, which has also worked for my gym clients, I'm sure will work for you, too. The solution is to train for maximum strength, not maximum body size!


The Maximum Strength program runs for 16 weeks and is divided into four phases lasting four weeks, each with its own emphasis on specific workouts. The weekly workout schedule enshrines two exercises for the upper body and two for the lower body. Optional cardio workouts are also presented to supplement the program. (In later chapters, I'll cover how to eat right and set yourself up for success.) The culmination of the workouts, when the strength test is performed, occurs on the last day, which I call Reporting Day, to emphasize the real effect that can be achieved with the Maximum Strength program. When you complete the program, you'll marvel at how much weight you'll be able to bench press, lift the barbell with a squat, do deadlifts and pull ups on the bar in just 16 weeks of focused training.


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